(13) South Carolina State (10-2) at (2) Appalachian State (10-2)
The Sports Network
By John Hooper, FCS Correspondent
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 29th, 12 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kidd Brewer Stadium (20,150) -- Boone, North Carolina. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN U. Announcers: Dave Armstrong, Larry Coker. Home Record: SC State 5-0; Appalachian State 6-0. Away Record: SC State 5-2; Appalachian State 4-2. Series Record: Appalachian State (1-0). Last meeting: 1984 (Appalachian State, 24-0). Conference: SC State - Mid- Eastern Athletic; Appalachian State - Southern. Sports Network Ranking: SC State (13); Appalachian State (2). Nicknames: SC State Bulldogs; Appalachian State Mountaineers. Playoff Record: SC State (2-2); Appalachian State (20-12). Coaches: SC State - Buddy Pough (57-23); Appalachian State - Jerry Moore (204-120-2, overall; 177-72 at Appalachian State).
GAME NOTES: The last time a MEAC champion visited Kidd-Brewer Stadium for an opening-round playoff game against Appalachian State was 1999.
The Mountaineers were the No. 4 seed in the tournament and had won a third of the Southern Conference championship with Georgia Southern and Furman, but underestimated Florida A&M in a 44-29 loss.
FAMU went on to the semifinals before losing a hard-fought battle with national runner-up Youngstown State.
ASU comes into the first round of this year's playoffs as the No. 2 seed, the Southern Conference champion and the three-time defending national titlist. And the Mountaineers meet another dangerous opponent in South Carolina State.
The Bulldogs, making their first playoff appearance in 26 years and only their second ever, have faced the Mountaineers only one other time, dropping a 24-0 decision to ASU to close the 1984 season.
South Carolina possesses the kind of speed that gave the Mountaineers trouble back in 1999 against the Rattlers. The only problem for the Bulldogs, is the Appalachian has recruited much more with speed in mind over the last decade, leading to its impressive championship run over the previous three years.
The Bulldog offense is led Payton Award candidate Will Ford (1,382 yards, 12 TDs), an elusive speedster, who is also a team leader. Ford combines with Travil Jamison (567 yards, 16 TDs) and quarterback Malcolm Long (1,809 yards, 12 TDs, eight interceptions) in the backfield.
One player that coach Buddy Pough likes to go to in certain situations is reserve signal-caller DeWain Clark (25-of-40, 336 yards, three TDs, one interception, 209 rushing yards in eight appearances this season) who brings speed and quickness to the table and could offer a change-up to a steady diet of Ford and Long.
There is also big-play speed at wide receiver, with Oliver Young (47 receptions, 587 yards, 12.5 yards per catch, four TDs), Phillip Morris, (35 catches, 547 yards, 15.6 yards per catch, five TDs) and Octavius Darby (26 grabs, 450 yards, 17.3 yards per catch, four TDs).
SCSU ranks 35th in FCS in total offense (387 yards per game) and 14th in rushing (209 yards per game). One of the strengths of the Bulldog attack is center Raymond Harrison. Harrison could be a tough assignment for Appalachian State's defensive interior, comprised of Malcolm Bennett (33 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack) and Anthony Williams (43 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks).
Not to be overshadowed by all the offensive weapons the Bulldogs boast, SCSU brings the nation's fourth-ranked defense (248 yards per game) into the contest.That unit is spearheaded by one of the nation's premier pass rushes, led by defensive ends Cedric Lloyd (eight tackles for loss, seven sacks) and Markus James (10 tackles for loss, five sacks, one interception).
The ringleader of the defense is one of the MEAC's best linebackers, Michael McFadden (79 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, five sacks). The Bulldogs are allowing just 105 yards per game on the ground entering the postseason.
However, the SCSU defense hasn't faced an offense with as much speed and as many weapons since an early-season clash with Clemson. In the 54-0 loss to the Tigers, the Bulldogs surrendered a season-high 418 yards to Clemson, including 189 on the ground.
Armanti Edwards (2,146 yards passing, 25 TDs, two interceptions, 890 yards rushing, nine TDs) is one of the Payton Award favorites and should be back after sitting out last week's win over Western Carolina with a hip injury.
True freshman backup DeAndre Presley (379 yards passing, two TDs, one interception, 414 yards rushing, seven TDs) played the whole way in the 35-10 win over Western Carolina in the regular-season finale, winning SoCon offensive player of the week honors with 314 yards of total offense.
ASU ranks sixth nationally in rushing (254 yards) and is third in total offense (464 yards). Other than Edwards, the Appalachian running game is aided by Robert Welton (521 yards, 11 TDs) and Devin Radford (509 yards, four TDs, five catches, 178 yards, 35.6 yards per catch, two TDs).
Edwards and Presley have some solid, reliable options in the passing game. Tight end Ben Jorden (21 catches, 18.7 average, five TDs) was certainly a favorite of Presley's last week, catching a pair of TD passes. The leading receiver is CoCo Hillary (46 catches, 13.0 yards per catch, 600 yards, four TDs), while Brian Quick (12 catches, 25.6 yards per reception, five TDs) is the most dangerous deep threat.
Appalachian's defense seems to be molding into form just in time for the postseason.The Mountaineers held Western Carolina to just 72 yards of total offense and minus-11 yards in the second half.
The young but talented ASU defensive end tandem of Lanston Tanyi (6.5 tackles for loss, six sacks) and Jabari Fletcher (11.5 tackles for loss, six sacks) has fueled an improving pass rush.
The Mountaineers have one of the country's most talented linebacking corps. Jacque Roman leads the trio with a team-high 107 tackles, while Pierre Banks has contributed 80 stops and D.J. Smith has 93.
A secondary that had to be rebuilt in the off-season has turned into an ASU strength. The Mountaineers lost all four starters, including Buchanan Award runner-up Corey Lynch, has ranked 32nd nationally (179 yards per game).
ASU has picked off a SoCon-leading 18 passes with nine of those interceptions hauled in by Buchanan Award candidate safety Mark LeGree.
Overall, the Mountaineers' defense ranks 47th nationally in total defense (333 yards per game) and 69th against the run (154 yards per game).
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Appalachian State 48, South Carolina St 21.
11/27 11:57:32 ET